The Secret to Rapid Improvement

How would you like to accelerate your progress in an area of weakness? My 23-year-old son, Chris and I discussed this a few days ago. He reminded me of how he stretched himself by being in several lead roles in musicals. “I hated that but it was good for me,” he told me. He is a naturally shy creative who can draw, paint, write articles, write and arrange music, write lyrics and produce music. He rapidly advanced as an actor because he did what he didn’t want to do.

Chris confirms what I just listened to on this podcast hosted by Ray Edwards. He interviewed bestselling author and creativity expert Jeff Goins who is releasing a new book about creativity. Jeff researched leading successful artists such as Michaelangelo who was one of the wealthiest artists of his time during a period when artists were considered paid laborers. Goins revealed a key to rapidly growing in your craft – going public with your process, especially when you’re uncomfortable with this.

Goins discovered that Chris Rock, one of my favorite comedians, would test his jokes on audiences before adding the jokes to his show. Chris would show up at a club with a pad of paper and just start telling jokes to see which ones worked. The jokes that didn’t get any laughs didn’t make the cut. By going public with his creative process, Chris was building his fan base and testing his ideas.

Goins shared his own story of playing in a band and how he rapidly improved as a musician by doing several shows a week. My other son, Alex, has been literally leading worship for 3 hours a day, 5 days a week while he has been in India. I’ve been watching him via Facebook live broadcasts. I asked him why is he always on the keyboard. He responded, “Because I’m the band leader.” That’s 15 to 20 hours of leading and working with other singers and musicians.

These worship sessions have been broadcast live over a Facebook page with opportunities for people to instantly comment. This means that every song that’s off key or pitchy can’t be edited. Awkward transitions are live for everyone around the world to see but the heart and spontaneous singing have been amazingly fresh.

Alex told me that he has noticed an amazing improvement in his singing and playing piano because he has been doing this for many hours. If you want to rapidly advance in an area, then do it for hours at a time and go public with your process. I’m trying to do this right now as I go public with my attempt to do more writing.

I spend hours writing headlines, teasers, and curating hundreds of articles a week. Now I need to carve time out to do my own original writing. Look for more writing in days to come as I go public with my own creative process.

What would you like to improve in?

Why Christians Need to Stop Silly Fights

“What are the benefits of public school,” a person asked on Twitter.

I answered, “You learn how to get along with people who are different from you.”

Instantly without any notice I was ambushed on Twitter by home schoolers who thought I said ‘home-schooling is Satanic.’ I said nothing about home-schooling. I answered a question about public school.

Unfortunately I innocently stepped into the middle of a conversation launched by a blogger pitching his pro-home school post. The Christian blogger had an agenda and he used me to launch his crusade against public school. I quickly bowed out of this accidental argument and called out the blogger’s agenda.

The home-school versus public school is one of those silly fights Christians tend to get into in the name of God. My friend Lee Grady posted an article about how Christians misuse the Bible. One way we pervert the Bible is when we attack each other with scriptures. We think we’re defending God’s honor and the truth when we’re justifying our position at our friend’s expense.

The home-school versus public school is one of the many silly wars we fight. I’ve seen these battles as well:

  • Moms with children who work outside of the home versus moms with children who stay at home
  • Purposefully single versus marrieds
  • Purposefully childless couples versus marrieds with children

And the list goes on and on. I was in a church where the pastor’s wife wanted to debate me about my decision to work outside of the home. My mom just died and I had a baby. I was not in the mood for an open debate about my decision to work.

I respectfully told the pastor’s wife that the decision to work was between me and God and my husband. We believed the job was a financial blessing and my children were being taken care of. “I think you’ve crossed some boundaries here,” I said.

A week later she called crying and repenting for her mistake. I was thankful she responded but my guard was up in that relationship. That was the beginning of the end for me for that church.

While I’m a firm believer in seeking wisdom and counsel from respected, trusted leaders, I believe these issues, among many, are between you and God:

  • Taking birth control
  • Have kids or not have kids
  • Get married or stay single
  • How you date
  • Where you live
  • What you do for a living
  • How you spend your money
  • How you decide to educate your child

Some people can’t afford to send their child to a private Christian school or lose income from a working adult. Instead of judging them for their decision to send their child to a public school, why not pay their way to a private Christian school? Paying for their tuition is a more constructive way of addressing your conviction about private Christian education instead of berating the parent for subjecting their child to the ‘liberal agenda.’

Christians who fight silly wars are at-risk for breaking this scriptural guideline for relationships:

Don’t speak evil against each other, dear brothers and sisters.[a] If you criticize and judge each other, then you are criticizing and judging God’s law. But your job is to obey the law, not to judge whether it applies to you.  God alone, who gave the law, is the Judge. He alone has the power to save or to destroy. So what right do you have to judge your neighbor? James 4:11-12

Who are you to judge your neighbor because….

  • They send their child to a public school
  • They home-school
  • He/she doesn’t want to get married
  • He/she doesn’t want to have children
  • He/she wants to have a big family
  • She has children and doesn’t want to work
  • She has children and wants to work
  • He/she drives an expensive sports car or an older vehicle
  • He/she is a different race, gender or economic class

Who are you to judge?

Instead of judging, let’s love by praying and caring for one another. Let’s fight for another, stand with another and respect each other’s decision. Help an overwhelmed parent. Bring a meal. Take care of their kids. Celebrate life!

Tell me about a silly war you may have accidentally stepped into.

 

Faith at Work: When You’re Asked to Do Something New

“Leilani, we would like you to build a web site,” My boss said.

“I’ve never built a web site,” I replied.

“If you have to take classes, we’ll pay for the classes. You’re very creative and quick to learn new things so I know you can do it,” he reassured me.

I had just finished producing a video with animation, historic footage and top-notch narration. I taught myself how to write a script, how to storyboard scenes and how to direct. How hard could it be to create a web site?

Today there are all sorts of WYSWYG or web-based site building platforms such as Wix. Back in the late 90s, you had to know HTML and some code. I’ve always enjoyed learning new things and I believe this ability is a gift from God. He has no limits on our skills, ability or knowledge.

When I’m asked to do something I’ve never done, I pray. I pray for God to send me the right person who can guide me. I pray for wisdom in choosing the right classes and resources. I pray for insight into the methods and processes of accomplishing that task.

The benefits of having a relationship with God is that we have access to wisdom beyond our ability or experience. This is when walking by faith gets fun! He can connect you to a key person who can move your project forward 50 miles down the road after one phone call or meeting.

The difficult IT person that I blogged about was that key person. Harriet gave me my plan of action in one meeting. I believe God sent Harriet to dramatically launch the project forward.

What are you believing for on your job or at home? God loves to solve problems and riddles. I pray that God sends you someone who can open the door you need opened or help answer your problem. Remember that He usually sends people. So don’t ignore people in your life. He may be trying to send you help now but you’re too prideful to take it.

Receive His help. Receive His wisdom and counsel. Receive Him in the middle of your problem.

Put the idea to action

If you did what I said yesterday, you have a notebook with some ideas written down. To weed out the impossible ideas, cross off the ones that are:

Illegal – meaning that you will break the law. You can’t kill your boss. You can’t kill your client. Those actions would put you in jail.

Impossible – I know I told you not to edit yourself, but if you’re a 250 lb. 50-year-old male, there is no way you’re going to be a ballerina. The impossible ideas are the ones that are biologically out of reach unless you commit to a year of serious cross-training.

The next step is to prioritize your ideas. Which idea can you do right now with your resources or relationships? If you need to find a job, then your first priority is to write a killer resume. If you want to start a business, the next step is to vet the idea. Evaluate your business idea by looking at your market and competition. If you have a market and lots of competition, then your offer needs to be so unique that people want to do business with you instead of the competitor down the street.

If you have a market and zero competition, then the door is wide open for your business idea. Make a list of what you need and funds for launching the business. Then prioritize what you need to launch.

Here’s some links to resources for launching your idea:

8 Steps to Launch an Idea, in Just a Few Hours

How to Take an Idea to Launch in 4 Steps

Prepare for Takeoff: How to Launch Your Idea

 

How to Make $25K a Year Working Part-Time From Home

I made over $40,000 a year my first year working from home. Most people barely make over $10,000 their first year working for themselves but I had inadvertently stumbled into a principle of making decent money working from home. I didn’t sign on with a multi-level marketing company – although I know a lot of people who are successful at MLM. Instead, I landed a project that entailed a using a skill set that I had applied for over 15 years part-time while working in a full-time job.

workfromhomeinfographic

For over 15 years, I had freelanced for numerous publications. I had also worked other projects part-time to earn extra money from home. Some of those at-home jobs included:

  • Publication layout and design at $20 to $25 per hour
  • Writing technical magazine articles at $1 per word
  • Copywriting press releases for $25 per hour

I was working in the most boring job in my life when I landed a contract to ghost-write book. That contract had enough income to cover 3 months of my salary so I took the leap and left the boring full-time job. That ghost-writing project didn’t work out but I ended up landing another contract that paid close to $50 an hour writing and editing technical content. I’m such a geek that I actually enjoy drilling into the details of technical content that drives a successful user experience online. Since that contract, I started my own business providing social media, public relations, event management and copywriting services to businesses.

I believe you can make a decent living working from home and since this post is based on making $25k working 20 hours a week, here’s how you can do it.

1) Calculate Your Billable Hours First, let’s do the math. If you took 2 weeks off during the year for a vacation, then you would have 1,000 billable hours available.

You would have to charge $25 to $30 an hour to cover those billable hours.

2) Research Companies Next you need to figure out the skill set or services that companies or businesses are willing to pay $25 to $30 for. From my own professional experience, I knew that I could charge $25 to $30 an hour for:

* Public Relations services
* Copywriting services
* Event Management services

Here are other services or skills that companies or businesses would pay $25 to $30 an hour:

  • Accounting
  • Appointment Setting
  • Catering
  • Call Center Services
  • Computer Servicing
  • Computer Support
  • Copywriting
  • Design
  • Direct Sales & Marketing
  • Event Management
  • Medical Transcription
  • Technical Writing
  • Public Speaking
  • Software development
  • Training
  • Virtual Administrative Services

3) Create a Services Package You might have to discount your prices the first couple of months of business to get customers in the door. Or you could offer a trial price for 30 days with the intent to charge the regular fee the second month of service. The goal is to create a package the makes sense to your customers.

4) Market Your Services I would recommend a multi-pronged approach – email blasts, social media, presentations and paid advertising to fill up your pipeline of work. Create a 30 day calendar filled with marketing activities. I’m a big believer in getting in front of as many people as possible to talk about how your product or service will benefit that company.

I believe this is the biggest weakness in small businesses. The owner is caught up in doing the work that they don’t devote any hours to marketing their business. You must allocate hours to marketing or you will be out of business.

5) Set Aside Space in Your Home for an Office If you can’t set aside a room, then set aside space on your kitchen table for a certain number of hours to work your business. When you talk on the phone, you need to sound like you’re working in a professional environment. Toddlers babbling in the background is not a professional environment.

For moms with toddlers, I recommend working while they are taking naps. One hour working on the phone can get a lot of results if you focus on making appointments or connecting with potential clients. When I was starting my business, I had a spreadsheet with names of potential clients and kept track of every contact point with them. You have to have a focused plan of connecting with prospects.

The project that paid me over $40,000 my first year working at home was extremely technical and required a lot of writing, editing and research. I also worked with a virtual team where I checked in with them several times a day to meet deadlines. It was a high-paying gig but demanding.

Most high-paying work at home positions will require technical expertise or working with a virtual team. The ability to Skype, host Google hangouts or lead in a conference call are extremely useful skills in a virtual team environment.

So do you still want to work at home? Here are some useful links:

http://www.FlexJobs.com
http://www.indeed.com/l-Work-from-Home-jobs.html
http://www.careerbuilder.com/Jobs/Keyword/Work-From-Home/

If there’s enough interest in this post, I may write a series based on the steps that I outlined above.

onlinework

So You Want to be a #Mompreneur?

I’ve had lots of people ask what do I do for a living and how have I managed to work out of my home running a business for the last 3 years. It’s hard to nail down what I do because it can change on a dime. Fortunately I’m earning what I use to earn in the corporate world with a flexible schedule. Here’s my typical weekly schedule:

  • Everyday post a fresh article at 10am, 1pm and 3pm for an online magazine
  • Write a fresh post / tweets for 15 Facebook pages and Twitter accounts
  • Spend 1 to 2 days in the field marketing on behalf of my clients
  • Organize an event such as a business after hours, customer appreciation event, etc.
  • Write, design and edit email newsletters
  • Promote events through a news release, flyer, Chamber publicity, social media etc.

Today I shopped at Sam’s Club for several hours for Teacher Appreciation event that I’m managing tomorrow for a client. I also posted several articles and wrote posts / tweets that will be pushed out tomorrow. It’s 8pm and I’m still working.

I did get to take some time off to walk the dog, eat dinner, wash dishes and watch part of a movie with my daughter. I started my workday after I got my daughter on the bus at 7:40 am. I posted a story and then left the house at 8:20 am to drop my son off at school.

As soon as I got back to my home office, I researched and edited articles, made phone calls and answered emails until I went shopping for tomorrow’s event. When I returned from my shopping expedition, I was back on the computer until 4:30pm. Thankfully my husband, Jerome, cooks dinner.

I wash dishes, take the dog for a walk, eat dinner and watch part of a movie with my daughter. Then I’m back on the computer at 6:30pm to work on content that needs to be scheduled to post tomorrow. I will be working onsite at an event with limited access to my laptop from 8:30am to 1pm.

When I return to my office tomorrow afternoon, there will be more emails to answer and phone calls to return as well as fresh posts to write. It’s a never ending cycle of creativity, administration and managing the details of creating and marketing events. In between it all, my husband kids need to be fed, they need clean clothes and the house needs to be cleaned.

Shutting down the load of laundry screaming, “Wash me!” is a challenge when you’re on a deadline with an article. But it’s a discipline I’ve learned to focus on what needs to be done now to meet the deadline. My kids learned this when they were small and answering the phone, “Mom can’t come to the phone right now because she’s on deadline.”

If you really want to have a home-based business, you must allocate hours to focus on your clients. You can’t play with your toddler and work at the same time because you’re not being paid to play with your kids. I had one lady ask me how to start a business at home that could accommodate her kids.

I suggested offering childcare services but she didn’t want to take care of kids. She didn’t have a laptop to do online work or a dedicated phone. I had no answers for her.

In the Kansas City metro area, you can reasonably charge $150 per week for childcare. If you got 4 children, that’s $600 a week. Of course you should be licensed and have the facilities to accommodate those children. Childcare is hard work but $2,400 a month or $28,000 a year isn’t a bad salary for being able to stay at home with your children.

There are plenty of businesses you can start at home. The key is finding your niche and customers willing to pay for it. But be prepared for days in flux when you may have to work a 10 hour day so you can time off the next day to go on a field trip with your child.

My next post will be “How to Make $25k a Year Working Part-Time From Home.”